Satellite-Based Cloud Computing Competition

Russ Steele

I just returned from a trip to the Seattle area where cloud computing slipped into the conversation with Amazon announcing the formation of a low latency satellite internet network to provide services, including cloud computing. This new development could bring fast cloud computing services to billions of new customers.

What is cloud computing you ask? Generally, cloud computing services are categorized into three types:
1) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This service provides the infrastructure like Servers, Operating Systems, Virtual Machines, Networks, and Storage on rent basis. Recognized providers include Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Service

2) Platform as a Service (PaaS): This service is used in developing, testing and maintaining of software. PaaS is same as IaaS but also provides additional tools like database management systems and business intelligence services. Primary provider are Microsoft/RedHat, IBM, and Oracle

3) Software as a Service (SaaS): This service makes the users connect to the applications through the Internet on a subscription basis. Examples are Google Applications, Salesforce, and Microsoft.

Amazon AWS, Microsoft, and Google are all using their infrastructure to provide more cloud-based business services, but now Amazon has changed the game by joining the LEO satellite broadband internet providers. By using a space-based network, AWS is building out service infrastructure to provide cloud connectivity to global customers, faster than surface based competitors, especially over long distances.

The question is can Google and Microsoft stay in the game with Amazon satellite broadband delivered cloud computing services across the globe.

Google Filed patent US 20170005179, on September 30, 2014, for a constellation of 1000 satellites to cover 75% if the earth. However, Project Loon, a series of balloons to provide WiFi services for broad swathes of the unserved area around the equator seem to take priority. With billions in the bank, Google could act on its patented network to become a space-based cloud service company.

What about Microsoft? How do they compete in the cloud computing service business when they are confined to earth-based fiber networks? Satellites networks with laser interconnections are much faster than fiber networks. For example, studies have shown fiber latency between San Francisco and London is about 146 ms, whereas the SpaceX satellite link is about 50% faster at 73 ms, with twelve satellite hops.

Microsoft’s Azure cloud is a rapidly growing business segment. Fiscal third-quarter sales in the company’s Azure cloud computing segment rose 73% year-over-year according to 3rd Quarter Report.

“Leading organizations of every size in every industry trust the Microsoft cloud. We are accelerating our innovation across the cloud and edge so our customers can build the digital capability increasingly required to compete and grow,” Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said in the earnings release.

If I were a Microsoft advisor, I would recommend Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella investigate becoming a partner with SpaceX or one of the other LEO constellations that has an inter-satellite communications architecture to provide a suite of fast cloud computing service applications.  The game is changing and the winner yet to be determined.

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A Cyber Economy: The Transactional Value of the Internet in Rural America

The above title is from an iGR White Paper on internet transaction and spending, including the spending by rural internet users. The details are in the study HERE and the Foundation for Rural Service infographic which provides an excellent summary if you are in a hurry.

From the website with links to the white paper and infographic.

This report examines the nature and quantifiable value of online transactions, and draws comparisons between online usage habits among urban and rural consumers. The report was produced by iGR, a market strategy consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile communications industry, and commissioned by the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS).

Major findings include:

  • Internet usage among urban and rural consumers is largely similar.

  • Rural consumers are responsible for approximately 15% of all consumer, internet-driven transactions annually, which equates to more than 10.8 billion online transactions altogether.

  • Internet-driven transactions make up nearly 50% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) or $9.6 trillion annually. These transactions are estimated to grow to more than 65% by 2022, to $14 trillion per year.

  • The estimated value of rural online transactions is nearly $1.4 trillion—or 7% of GDP.

This is an impressive study with some interesting numbers, but it only looks at the transaction made by those with a broadband connection, what about the potential of the 14 million rural citizens that do not have any broadband connection?

I predict these 14 million unserved are future users of satellite broadband.

SpaceX Starts Launching Starlink Network in May 2019

SpaceX has announced a launch target of May 2019 for the first batch of operational Starlink satellites in a sign that the proposed internet satellite constellation has reached a major milestone, effectively transitioning from pure research and development to serious manufacturing. R&D will continue as SpaceX Starlink engineers work to implement the true final design of the first several hundred or thousand spacecraft, but a significant amount of the team’s work will now be centered on producing as many Starlink satellites as possible, as quickly as possible.

With anywhere from 4400 to nearly 12,000 satellites needed to complete the three major proposed phases of Starlink, SpaceX will have to build and launch more than 2200 satellites in the next five years, averaging 44 high-performance, low-cost spacecraft built and launched every month for the next 60 months.

Source: Tesalarati

My question is how many in the first batch,  twenty-five, or more.  One estimate:

Using a Falcon 9 at 25 satellites per launch it would take 177 flights, about 36 flights per year. Using a Falcon Heavy with 40 satellites it would take 112 flights, over 5 years that’s about 22 flights per year. Using a BFR assuming 350 satellites per launch, until someone comes up with a better number, would need 13 flights total.

Source: Reddit Starlink FAQ

Can Social Media Handle Four Billion More Users?

Russ Steele

It has been reported that Facebook globally has two billion users, on today’s networks with large segments of the global population living in internet deserts. Places were there is no connectivity, making the use of social media extremely difficult. China’s social media sites are reported to have half a billion users. Add another half a billion to include all the other social network sites, and it’s clear we are becoming a connected world.

space_network_matrixSpace-based internet will cover the planet from 57 degrees North to 57 degrees South. Industry experts estimate this will bring 4 billion more users to the internet that do not have access today.

That would be four billion new customers for Amazon, many living in rural areas far from the local store. It is also four billion potential social media users. Social media giants Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a plethora of others are struggling to manage the current customer base, with news of data breaches in the daily news. Can they handle four billion more customers?

While writing this, I had another thought. Amazon Prime Members are offered free two-day shipping. Satellite internet is going to connect hundreds of millions of new rural customers, many at the end of a 40-mile driveway. Once Amazon has added hundreds of millions of rural customer will shipping still be free?

USDA ReConnect Broadband Funding Program Will Begin Accepting Applications April 23

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will start accepting applications for its Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program) on April 23.

The ReConnect Program enables USDA to create and implement innovative solutions to rural connectivity by providing various financial options to partners and customers

We earlier reported the rules for how the government would award $600 million in broadband loans and grants for the Rural Broadband Pilot program created by Congress. The USDA ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot rules apply to a wide range of potential participants, including state and local governments and non-profit organizations, as well as for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, cooperatives and tribes.

The USDA will make three different types of awards:

  • $200 million in grants, with a requirement for 25% in matching funds, with an application deadline of May 31
  • $200 million in 50% grant/50% loan combinations, with an application deadline of June 21
  • $200 million in low-interest loans, with an application deadline of July 12
    Note that all of the deadlines above are slightly later than the government originally announced.

Funds will be awarded to projects that have financially sustainable business models that will bring high-speed broadband to rural homes, businesses, farms, ranches and community facilities such as first responders, health care sites and schools. Telecommunications companies, internet service providers, rural electric cooperatives and utilities and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service.

Applications can be submitted through via reconnect.usda.gov.

H/T to Telecompetitor

5G On Tap

— Wireless trade group CTIA will host National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, Pai and executives from T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular to talk all things 5G at a summit at the International Spy Museum today. The industry group came out this week with recommendations for a national spectrum strategy, urging the Trump administration to set a five-year schedule for airwaves auctions and commit to a “free market” approach to 5G. Some Trump allies including the president’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale have been promoting a more government-oriented “wholesale” model for the next-generation networks, in which a public-private partnership would resell spectrum capacity to wireless providers.

— Kudlow, who will give a keynote, is expected to discuss the administration’s support for a private sector, free-enterprise approach.

Source POLITICO Morning Tech

CTIA National Spectrum Strategy Message is HERE.

 

Telesat LEO—The why’s and wherefore’s

Telesat Test One

Satellite Magazine has the full details HERE, below is a summary of the services that Telesat a Canadian satellite operator plans to provide with a fleet of 117 LEO satellites starting in 2020.

Mobility: Targeting vessels on the ocean and aircraft flying polar routes concentrating capacity into areas of highest demand, such as major airports and seaports.

Carrier Backhaul and Enterprise Connectivity: Backhaul for 4G/5G networks with a focus on rural institutions such as schools and hospitals, plus remote enterprises, mines, and factories providing high-speed connectivity just like urban entities.

 Government and Defense: The government is exploring ways to leverage the advantages of next-generation broadband LEO mega constellations, especially the low latency and high resiliency that results from their full global, pole-to-pole coverage for military programs including unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as other sovereign applications diplomatic communications, border control, and protection are  listed in the article.

The focus is not on supplying individual users broadband services but institutional organizations that can server their members.